HELENA — Claims that a Montana outfitter illegally baited wolves by leaving animal carcasses in a pile on his property near Yellowstone National Park were rejected Tuesday by Montana wildlife officials, who said an investigation determined the dead sheep had been buried.
Wildlife advocates had accused outfitter William Hoppe of intentionally luring in the predators and shooting one after wolves killed at least 13 of his sheep. Hoppe is a long-time critic of the reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone region two decades ago.
But Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials said an investigation determined Hoppe buried all but one of the sheep that were killed by wolves on April 24. The remaining animal was dragged away by a grizzly bear.
Hoppe obtained two shoot-on-site kill permits from the state following the sheep attack. He used one to kill a wolf from Yellowstone National Park last week.
Hoppe said he’s received two death threats and a flood of harassing phone calls and emails after the baiting accusation was leveled by representatives of Wolves of the Rockies and the National Wolfwatcher Coalition. He defended his actions as “100 percent legal.”
“Somebody made up the story that I was baiting them,” he said. “I don’t need a permit and I don’t need $5,000 worth of sheep to kill a wolf. I think I’m experienced enough that if I want to go kill a wolf, I can go kill a wolf whenever I want.”
State wildlife officials said Hoppe has offered to forfeit his second permit to kill a wolf effective Saturday, when he will move his remaining livestock to a summer pasture out of the area.
After Hoppe shot the first wolf, a Yellowstone National Park biologist, Doug Smith, reportedly said that telemetry information from a research radio collar it was wearing indicated the female wolf was not involved in killing Hoppe’s sheep. Smith said the wolf, a member of the park’s Canyon Pack known by its collar number, 831F, was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
Montana wildlife officials now dispute that claim.
In a Monday letter to wildlife advocates who pressed for an investigation and wanted Hoppe’s second kill permit revoked, a state official said there was “no convincing evidence” to suggest the wrong wolf was shot.
“Radio telemetry further suggest that the wolf that was shot was within a distance that the wolf could easily have travelled to the sight of the depredation, between the time of the last telemetry reading and the suspected time of the depredation,” said Pat Flowers, Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional supervisor.
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